by Thom Yee
Early on in “Ouroboros”, only the third episode in this new, 15-episode-long season, Strand tells Madison, and by extension us, that the real danger on the ocean is people. Which… y’know, duh, we just spent an entire season on the parent show building up to the leader of one group beating a member of our group to death with a barb-wire-wrapped baseball bat he named Lucille, so I think we all know a little about people being the real danger in the post-zombie apocalypse if there was ever any doubt. If anything, the real danger for Fear the Walking Dead right now is probably Game of Thrones stealing and and all of the post-Sunday-night television discussion.
This week, after some living dead guy gets caught in the boat engine, the Fear team splits into two groups, the adults staying behind to fix the boat (actually, really only Travis worked on it) while the kids, under the expert supervision of Daniel the torturer, go on a supply run when they spot the remnants of a downed plane on the nearby shore. And, surprisingly, it’s only the English teacher working on the complex mechanical filtration system that does anything right.
We’re now reaching the point in Fear where our characters are being pushed into unnatural roles in a quest to gain agency and possibly take their first steps on the road to whatever they’re supposed to become in this new world, and, at least for me, nowhere is that more clear than seeing Travis work on the boat. With Daniel escorting the kids, the kids off on an adventure, Madison trying to reason with Strand, the injured Ofelia doing nothing more than needing help from others, and especially Travis, the male lead, fixing the engine, it feels like there are all sorts of cultural norms being enforced in “Ouroboros”, and like I mentioned in “The Dog”, the third episode of last season when Griselda was pinned down by scaffolding, receiving an injury that would ultimately be her death, I really would have liked to see things mixed up a bit here. Maybe a woman works on the boat? Or maybe I just have trouble believing in a world where an English teacher learns a practical skill.
Honestly, nobody does anything well this episode, and that’s kind of what’s wrong with the show at this point. We all understand that these people just won’t be as advanced as our heroes in the parent series, they just haven’t seen enough, but we have, and seeing the Fear team amble their way towards developments we’ve already covered continues to be almost actively disengaging. What Fear the Walking Dead has the opportunity to do better than The Walking Dead is play with the themes we’re familiar with from the parent show, but if you’re just going to remind us that the infected don’t notice you when you’re covered in their guts, something we were just reminded of at the halfway point of the just-passed season of The Walking Dead, maybe don’t bother.
Outside of Strand (and maybe Nick, who’s probably the best character of Fear if only because he’s the only one having any fun), no one on Fear seems to be working their way up to any sort of archetypal hero status, we have no Rick, we have no Daryl, we have no Michonne, and with how much more grounded Fear has been, we’ll probably never have a Carol. Everyone on Fear is a background character, and the first time we get anyone dynamic or smart or capable on this show, she gets left in the middle of the ocean, stranded by Strand (#StrandedByStrand) in a place that’s arguably worse than if they had left them on land. “Ouroboros” is the episode where we (and I mean the few of you who watched the Flight 462 webseries) finally synch up with the survivor’s of the crashed plane that Nick caught sight of as it fell last season, and as soon as Flight 462’s Alex showed up to kill the zombies, I started to feel better about things only for that hopeful spark of a small Asian woman to be cut off at the tether momentarily tying her to our group. I should’ve known better, I should’ve known that, in keeping with the cultural norming of this show, there are still no good roles for Asians. Except maybe Glenn (though we’ll have to wait and see if he’s still with us next season).
Right now, Fear the Walking Dead is failing the promise it holds in telling slower, more thoughtful and more deliberately paced stories than its parent show, and it’s certainly not very far in becoming a show that rivals The Walking Dead in action or ferocity, so what is it for? Just a side story? Just a distraction while the parent show takes its summer vacation? I’m being genuine when I say that I was sometimes impressed and overall happy with the first season of Fear, so I’m still hopeful that the showrunners still have a real plot in mind this year, but I’m starting to wonder what the point is, I’m (more than) starting to wonder if they know how to fill out an entire 15 episodes, I’m starting to think that nobody (that counts) is gonna die on this show, and I’m starting to wonder if I would care if they do.
Fear the Walking Dead — “Ouroboros” final score
Items of Note
- There sure is a lot of junk and dead bodies in the middle of the ocean. I guess that’s the California coast for you.
- Amoxicillin? Oxycodone? They should take all the drugs they can find, even if they don’t need them right at that moment.
- Help me, Chris, please, please… bludgeon me to death in a way that I still haven’t died after the first few strikes.
- More rosaries? Let’s hope our group manages to set someone on fire this year.
- In case you missed it (and you did), here’s the entire Fear the Walking Dead: Flight 462 web series: